Monthly Archives: April 2014

Malaysian Grand Prix and its future “in doubt”


In an interview with today, the Chief Executive Officer of the Sepang International Circuit Dato’ Razlan Razali has revealed that the future of the Malaysian Grand Prix could be in doubt because of the concerns regarding the future of Formula One.

The 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix will be the last race at Sepang on its current contract, but even though approval for negotiation of a new contract has been granted, an agreement between the FIA and Sepang is still some way off.

In his interview with today, Razali has revealed that a number of issues need to be considered before he is prepared to commit to another long-term deal. Razali stated the following:-

‘We have been given the green light from the government to begin negotiation with F1 management, so we are doing that right now. We have a big meeting coming up in Barcelona to discuss this.Of course there are a lot of factors involved: Price is one, other ongoing issues are important for us, such as where F1 is heading in the next five years.

‘Then we have the impending issues on the sound, the technicalities, because there are lot of calls for F1 to be a spectacle and to bring back the noise. So we have all these factors to consider if we want to extend beyond 2015.’

As Razali rightly states that there are a number of issues that need to be discussed in order to secure the future of the Grand Prix. I am really glad to see that the organisers are meeting with the FIA in Barcelona in order to see if these concerns can be dealt with as quickly as possible.

As I have stated in previous posts, for a Grand Prix to take place in any country that is currently on the calendar takes a lot of organisation, commitment and investment in order for it to succeed. But if the country manages to pull this off, it is rewarded with many tourists and fans choosing to invest their money by supporting the race, supporting the pinnacle of motorsport and supporting the local economy.

Alongside these issues, the future of Formula One has been debated by many pundits and fans over the past few months. I do understand why many pundits and fans are not happy. As I have stated before, I do not mind the switch to the turbo engines but I do feel that we need a bit more noise from them. But the FIA are currently still trying to resolve and look into this issue regarding the engines.

But we have seen after the Australian Grand Prix that the organisers were not happy with what they experienced and heard during this year’s race and were even looking towards suing the FIA for ‘breach of contract.’ But all track organisers can do currently is just wait and see if any changes will be taking place for the 2015 season and decide if they would like to continue hosting a Grand Prix even if the changes they would like do not get made.

Further on in his interview with, Razali believes that the noise from the Formula One engines did play a crucial role to the fans connection with the sport. Razali added the following:-

‘People can relate to F1 purely because of the noise. I am not sure too much about the technical side of things – if you go to a fan and say this is a hybrid F1 car, does that interest them? I am not so sure. They are there purely for the sound and the spectacle. As long as there is good racing, and we have seen some good racing this year, then that helps counter the noise side of things.

‘Then again, I believe the European fans are a lot more fanatic and a lot more brutal, so the big test will be in Barcelona and then you will see the fans’ reaction for the whole thing.’

I can see Razali’s perspective. As he rightly says, I do feel that Formula One has lost the engine noise that excites many fans who watch the sport religiously. If the FIA can make some changes to the engines that will allow them to produce more noise when racing at full speed, then I do feel that the fans will once again more connected to the sport that they love.

As what Razali states about the hybrid Formula One car that could be in the sport in the future, it may happen, it might not. I will concur that many fans might not be interested in a hybrid Formula One car being introduced into the sport in the near future, but there will be some fans would be excited about the prospect of this happening. But at the end of the day, Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsport, has always pushed the boundaries and has always achieved the impossible.

We have already seen with the first four races despite many pundits and fans worrying about the future of the sport some very close racing throughout the field (for example the Bahrain Grand Prix) and it has been very exciting for the fans to watch. I do agree with Razali that whatever rules changes get brought into the sport now or in the near future, as long as we can see the best drivers in the world pushing and racing each other to the maximum, then Formula One will have achieved its aim.

In terms of the future for the Malaysian Grand Prix, I do feel that Razali will be looking very closely at how the season pans out, seeing if the FIA can make some changes in order to address concerns that many pundits and fans have with the sport currently and then basing his decision on this.

But what he has to remember is that if even the issues and concerns that he has with the sport at the moment are not addressed to the level that he would like, there are many countries that would jump at the chance to host a Grand Prix and all the benefits that it brings.

It would be a shame if we lost Malaysia from the calendar as it has provided us with some great races since its debut on the calendar in 1999. But all eyes will be upon them as they try to decide if these issues and concerns that they have with hosting the Grand Prix will be beneficial to them in the near future.

And I am sure that there are many countries in the wings looking to take the place of Malaysia if they do not want to continue hosting the Grand Prix. I really hope that Malaysia continue to host the Grand Prix and that their issues and concerns regarding the future are dealt with as quickly as possible before Formula One loses a track that many drivers and fans enjoy watching.



Bottas: Spanish GP will be important for us


In an interview with Autosport today, Williams’ driver Valtteri Bottas believes that the Spanish Grand Prix will be crucial to how the 2014 season will play out. Williams are one of the teams that expect a major upgrade to be available in Barcelona as well as their rivals such as Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull.

In his interview with Autosport today, Bottas has stated that he is confident that his team will continue their strong start to the season in Catalunya. Bottas said the following:-

‘Yes, I think it’s going to be an important weekend. It’s going to give some direction of how the rest of the season is going to be. If we can make some steps forward, it would be really nice, but it is going to be interesting.

‘We know it’s difficult because everyone will bring more updates, it’s just a matter of whose work and whose don’t. The positive thing is that most of the parts we brought [to China] worked and we saw an improvement, so we are hoping to make an even bigger step in Barcelona.’

I think Bottas makes a valid point here. Over the past two months, we have heard from many teams such as McLaren, Ferrari, Red Bull and even Lotus publically stating that they expect their performances to make a significant step forward. And there is no question that most teams will bring some developments to Spain in the hope of improving their performances on track as much as possible.

I would have to agree with Bottas and I believe that the Spanish Grand Prix is an important race weekend for many teams such as Williams. As Bottas himself says, this race for the Williams team will be important for them. Even though Williams managed to bring some developments and improvements to China that helped them gain yet more points for the team, Williams need to make another step forward as they head towards the Spanish Grand Prix.

Even though Williams perhaps haven’t scored as many points as their pace suggested, Bottas has finished in the top 10 in all four races so far this season. Despite the massive upturn in form from the disappointing 2013 season that the team endured, Bottas further on in his interview with Autosport added that the Williams team can continue to improve as the season progresses. Bottas added the following:-

‘It’s still positive to be consistently in the points but you always want more. We just need to keep pushing, keep solving the problems and try again next time.’

In my opinion, Bottas should be pleased with what he has managed to achieve so far this season. For Bottas to finish in the top 10 in every race so far is a fantastic achievement. Once again, Bottas in my view is showing that he is a potential talent of the future and showing us why he got the drive with Williams in the first place. I do feel that consistency will be play an important factor during the course of the season and Bottas will no doubt build on this as the season develops.

At this current stage of the season, Williams have already gained more points than last season in the Constructors Championship which is fantastic. It is really nice to see Williams in the midst of the field battling for strong points finishes. Even though many pundits and fans have expected much more from Williams due to the form they have shown in pre-season testing, I do think that Williams have made significant steps forward compared to 2013 and I do feel that the team have a lot more to give during the season.

As Bottas quite rightly points out, the team just need to keep pushing as much as they possibly can in order to build on what they have achieved already and extract more pace and performance from the car as quickly as they possibly can. I really do feel that the Williams team will achieve their aims of a podium finish at some point during this season, but they need to ensure that they keep developing and bringing as many improvements throughout the season ahead.

I would have to agree with Bottas and I do believe that the Spanish Grand Prix will be crucial not only just for Williams but also for their rivals too who are also hoping to extract more performance out of their cars too. Williams have had a promising and encouraging start to the season, even though many pundits, fans and even the Williams team expected much more.

I would agree that maybe Williams have not taken the opportunities in races such as Australia where if Bottas did not make his mistake, a podium could have been possible. But this will only spur on the Williams team and their drivers in order to learn from this and work even harder to try and achieve the best performances that they can.

But what Williams need to remember is that they have already achieved what many of their rivals such as Lotus have not yet managed to achieve. The team have already shown with their car that it can be consistent, reliable and competitive and they have been rewarded already with some good points from the first four races.

But the end of the day, it would seem that everything that the Williams team have been putting into place both internally and externally over the past few months to secure their future appears to be working well and is showing signs of potential already.

I do feel that if Williams keep on pushing as much as possible to bring developments to the car, they will sooner rather than later further unlock the potential that I believe that they have and will be rewarded with a podium finish this season. But the question is how long can Williams achieve this aim of finishing on the podium? I am hoping that it’s not too long as Williams deserve it, they really do.

Hulkenberg: We didn’t expect this start to the season

Nico Hülkenberg drove for Force India, the team he is returning to for 2014, in 2012

In an interview with Autosport yesterday, Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg has admitted that the start that his team has made to the season so far has taken him by surprise. Hulkenberg finds himself fourth in the Drivers’ Championship with 36 points heading into the European season after two fifth-places and two sixth-place finishes.

Although the team were solid during pre-season testing along with all the other Mercedes-powered squads, Hulkenberg has hailed the performances of Force India as a “big achievement”. In his interview with Autosport, Hulkenberg stated the following:-

‘I didn’t expect it and I don’t think you could have expected it as well. Winter testing was good, but not that good. To come away with so many points is a big achievement.’

As Hulkenberg has stated himself, I do believe that many pundits and fans did not expect him or the Force India team to have started the season as strong as they have. However, I did state before the season started that I felt that Force India could be the surprise package of the season and could be able to get some points and even maybe a podium finish at this early stage of the season.

I would have to agree with Hulkenberg and say that what Force India, Hulkenberg and Perez have achieved so far this season is an astonishing achievement. Force India has already shown that their car so far is consistently able to perform regularly and can battle for good strong points finishes on a regular basis.

The Spanish Grand Prix takes place in a fortnight and the race is usually a strong indicator of just what the rest of the season holds in store. While the big teams such as Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren usually flex their muscles and bring major upgrades, the smaller teams such as Force India are left behind due to their budget constraints.

Further on in his interview with Autosport, Hulkenberg has stated that he sees no reason why Force India can’t keep up over the next few races. Hulkenberg stated the following to Autosport:-

‘I don’t see any obvious reason why we shouldn’t be able to carry the good momentum, but like every year in Formula 1 it’s pretty much a development race – you’ve got to keep bringing performance. Maybe at the later point in the season the big teams with the bigger budgets will have more of an advantage, but I see ourselves in a very good position.’

You cannot really argue with what Hulkenberg has stated. At this current time, Force India look to be a very good position and I feel that what they have achieved so far in this current season will only spur the team on to try and extract the most performance out of their car as quickly as they possibly can.

However, even though I do believe that Force India will continue to surprise throughout the season, I do feel that the team need to use as much as of their resources that they possibly can to develop their car throughout the rest of the season.

As Hulkenberg has said himself in his interview, we will soon start to see the bigger teams such as Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren continuously bringing upgrades and improvements to their cars as all the teams learn more and more about the technical regulations. As we all know, Force India do not have the resources that many of their rivals have but I am sure that they will do the best job that they possibly can with what they have at their disposal.

In my view, I do not think that many pundits and fans should have been surprised with the performance that Force India has achieved during the first four races of this season. Force India has managed to produce a consistent, reliable and most importantly competitive car that can fight for strong points finishes at a Grand Prix on a Sunday. The team have managed to achieve these points at a time when their current rivals such as McLaren are struggling once more to extract performance from their car.

I do believe that Force India will have a battle in order to keep up with the developmental race that will be taking place throughout the season. But I do feel that the team as always will do the best with the resources and personnel that they have internally in order to improve their car and its performance as much as they possibly can.

In my view, I do believe that Force India can improve on their performances that they have achieved so far but they need to ensure that they keep developing the car as much as possible in order to keep challenging and fighting for strong points finishes throughout the season ahead.

Will Force India be able to keep up their current performance throughout the season ahead? We shall see.

Grosjean: I’m glad I stayed quiet over issues with Lotus last year


In an interview with Autosport today, Lotus driver Romain Grosjean has stated that he feels he made the correct decision that he keep a lid on the Lotus Formula 1 team’s 2013 financial difficulties, rather than blowing them into the open like their former driver Kimi Raikkonen did.

After finally revealing that he had finally been paid by the Lotus team, Grosjean confessed that last season’s money troubles were a cause for concern for him at the time. However, he preferred to put personal interests to one side in support of the team, rather than going public in a bid to get paid.

Compared to Grosjean, Raikkonen who last season spoke during the weekend of the Abu Ahabi Grand Prix, spoke openly about the issue and then came close to not even racing in the car during the weekend because of his wages dispute. In his interview with Autosport, Grosjean said the following:-

‘It was certainly not the way we wanted things to go. I never opened my mouth in front of the media, because that was my own business, and that was my own personal thing. Kimi kind of launched the whole thing.

‘It wasn’t easy for the guys, and things have not been made right always, but on the other hand everyone stayed together. The team spirit has always been there, and even though things were not as good as we would have loved them to be, the results were still there. So everyone was keeping their head down and pushing hard.’

Grosjean makes a valid point. Of course, the Lotus team did not want the media to find out about their issues that were ongoing last season in the manner that they did. I do understand why Raikkonen decided to voice his opinions on the matter at hand but I do feel that this was not the correct way for him to go about it.

As Grosjean has stated, it was Raikkonen’s choice to make this situation known to the media and that from him announcing the issues that were going on with the team at the time did no doubt affect the team a little bit. But I think most pundits and fans will be in agreement that the Lotus team have managed to put all these issues behind them and have managed to stay together as a team as a result.

A management shake-up at Lotus has been ongoing since the departure of Eric Boullier at the start of the year. This has been allied to a financial restructuring but Grosjean believes that this has left the team much better shape even if it is facing some on-track struggles at the moment. Grosjean said the following:-

‘At least we don’t have the problems that we could face in the past – which is a good advantage especially in a tough situation. We work as hard as we can together and, of course, when you come from two successful years and you get to a more difficult season, it can be quite different.

“But everyone is trying as hard as they can to get the car as good as we can to move forward, and not blame something he shouldn’t. We are moving forward and staying forward, united, and at the end we are all in the same boat.’

As Grosjean rightly points out, it would appear that they managed to deal and manage the problems that have been taking place within the team in the past year. Even though as he rightly says, the team may not be in the position that many thought they would be in after their performance last year.

But over the past few races, Lotus have managed to make small but encouraging steps forward as they try to understand and unlock the potential of their car. At the Chinese Grand Prix, the major updates from their engine supplier Renault lead to their Team Principal and Owner Gerard Lopez stating to the media that they have gained up to nearly seconds of performance.

When Lotus is able to put everything together, they have shown that they can perform and run their car reliably and also consistently. The performance that they showed in Shanghai where Grosjean managed to qualify in tenth place and from Maldonado finishing the race in 14th place shows that if Lotus can still keep on pushing and bringing updates to the track as quickly as they can, they will continue to improve their performance.

The Lotus team have stated over the past two months publically to the media that they expect to be challenging and showing an increase in performance at the Spanish Grand Prix in just under two week’s time. Will we see the Lotus team making enough strides to achieve this objective? Only time will tell.

Lopez: Future of the Lotus Team is secure


In an interview with Autosport today, Lotus Team Principal and owner Gerard Lopez
says the Formula 1 team’s financial worries have been blown out of proportion and he has no doubts that its future is secure.

The Lotus team endured a troubled time at the end of the 2013 season, after money that was promised to it from investors Quantum Motorsports did not materialise. The failure of those funds to materialise caused trouble for the team’s cash flow and prompted a tumultuous winter where it lost former Team Principal Eric Boullier to McLaren and the team failed to get its car ready for the first pre-season test in Jerez.

Those problems forced Lopez to restructure the way the Lotus team operated which did include a downsizing of staff numbers. However, Lopez is adamant that the situation inside the team is now better than it has been for a while. Lopez said the following to Autosport:-

‘It’s a question of how you depict things. When the money was supposed to arrive, actually did arrive but had to be sent back because of issues related to those people, all that did was delay a number of payments. When you are setting up a cash flow, like with any other company, you expect certain amounts of money to hit your account at a particular time.

‘And when they don’t, the management has to turn around and inform the company, and unblock funds. If this was a normal company, and a customer hasn’t paid you, well you have an issue and you deal with it. But because this is F1, it gets blown a bit out of proportion.’

I think most pundits and fans can understand what Lopez has stated to Autosport today. In regards to Quantum Motorsports, they failed to deliver their promises to the Lotus team time after time. This would have no doubt impact on how the team would be run and this has only been confirmed by Lopez himself.

As Lopez has said, if the money is not there for them to pay suppliers for example, this would undoubtedly affect their plans as they were at the time trying to prepare for the new season ahead and try to gain the best start they possibly could. In my view, this issue is one of the key factors that have contributed to where Lotus are currently with their performance so far this season.

At the end of the day, Lotus did the best they could with the arrangement that they had in place at the end of the last season with Quantum Motorsports. Both parties tried as much as they possibly could to gain the most out of their arrangement, but sadly it did not pay off for either of them and they parted ways.

As well as ensuring that Lotus’ finances are no longer exposed to such cash flow issues, Lopez has cut its overheads by reducing staffing numbers. Lopez goes on further to state that a lot of the 95 staff that have been let go were part of an expanded design team that was needed while the outfit ran a parallel design project for its 2014 car.

Further on with his interview with Autosport, Lopez added the following to his interview about the matter at hand:-

‘I know there are teams running at 700 people. We don’t, we’re running at 470, which is substantially more than over half the teams here. If you look at it from a half-empty glass, it’s like ‘those guys have lost it, they’ve lost so many people’. But from a half-full glass perspective we still have 150 people more than most of the teams around here.

‘So it’s a question of which way you look at it. It’s probably been less tumultuous from the inside that it has from the outside.’

In terms of what Lopez has said regarding the downsizing that he has been going within the Lotus team, I do believe that it has probably been a decision that the team have had to undergo in order to keep their cost levels down as much as they possibly can.

As Lopez quite rightly says, there are only a small number of teams who operate with personnel over 700 people in the sport currently. And Lotus does have more personnel than most teams as he rightly says that other teams in the sport such as Force India and they do the best job they can behind the scenes with what the team have at their disposal to provide them with the best tools possible in to compete within the sport as best as they can.

Lopez has also admitted in his interview with Autosport that losing Boullier to McLaren was not ideal, but says the team has shifted staff responsibilities to make up for the loss. The Lotus team have decided not to appoint a direct replacement for Boullier. Instead Lopez has decided to keep in closer communication with Technical Director Nick Chester and Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane. Lopez said the following:-

‘With Eric leaving, his role was very much a communications role between the racing team and people like Nick and so forth. What we’ve done is put Nick and Alan together much more, so they now speak directly rather than using Eric.

‘Eric I miss, because he was my communication channel into the team. But what I do is I now go more directly to Nick and Alan. It’s less disruptive than one could think.’

There is no doubt that Lotus will have felt the loss of Boullier leaving to go to McLaren. As I stated at the time when it was announced that Boullier had left the Lotus team for McLaren, he had managed to achieve some astonishing success with the team and I do still feel that his experience that he brought to the Lotus team will still be missed during the course of the season ahead.

However, from Lopez has stated today, it would seem that despite Lotus missing Boullier, it would appear that the new approach that Lopez has brought to the team is starting to slowly to work for them. The fact that Lopez has managed to keep the technical and the trackside operations teams communicating will pay off for the team has they start to develop their car over the course of the season ahead and also in the near future too.

In conclusion, I am really glad that the future of the Lotus team looks secure for them. After all their troubles in 2013, it would appear that Lotus are once again looking at trying to fight at the front of the grid and will no doubt be bringing more developments and upgrades in order to get their 2014 season back on track.

At this current stage of the season, Lotus has yet to score a point so far this season due to reliability problems with their car. But a major step forward from engine partner Renault in China has given them more motivation to keep on trying to fix their current issues.

With the future of the Lotus team looking more secure, the team can now finally focus on their fight to being as competitive as they can be and fighting their rivals once more for strong points and even podium finishes once more. Are they too far back to achieve this level of performance this season? Only time will tell.

Wolff: I support the idea of a cost cap in Formula One


In an interview with the media, Mercedes’ executive director of Business Toto Wolff has stated that he is in favour of a cost cap but knows the team would be fighting a losing battle trying to implement one. 

At the Bahrain Grand Prix, FIA president Jean Todt stated to the media that the cost cap planned for 2015 would not be introduced because the six teams on the Strategy Group – Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren, Williams and Lotus – were no longer in favour. 

In his interview with the media, Wolff has publically stated that he supports the idea of a cost cap but sees too many issues with other teams which make it pointless pursuing the option. Wolff stated the following to the media:-

‘Personally, I am in favour of a cost cap. However, as a team we have realised that some of the larger outfits on the grid could not, or would not, go down that route. Ferrari is a good example. They have all of their operations – both motorsport and road car production – under one entity, making it difficult to screen everything.

‘It would not make sense for us to push against two or three of the big teams for the sake of the principle of a cost cap. It is, however, worth following these discussions up by exploring methods that work for everybody. This is why reviewing the technical and sporting regulations is the right way to go for the time being and we have seen in the past that this can work.

‘Significant restrictions on testing are a prime example and we are all working together to find the best solutions. Again, as a team we are in favour of a cost cap or ceiling: both to avoid a spending war between the biggest outfits and also to reduce the gap throughout the grid in this respect.’

You cannot really argue with what Wolff has stated. I do believe that a cost gap needs to be introduced into the sport as quickly as it possibly can be. As Wolff has mentioned in his interview, with teams such as Ferrari will not want a cost cap to be introduced and you can understand their reasons why.

As I have stated in previous posts on the matter, I feel that the meeting on May 1st needs to see the teams look into the all the options and limitations that would occur to them if a cost cap was introduced into the sport as early as possible. I agree with Wolff that all the teams and the FIA need to look at the technical regulations and try to find the best solution that is acceptable to all.

I do feel that the teams and the FIA have had plenty of opportunity to discuss the matter at hand and an acceptable and fair solution has to found before the smaller independent teams such as Marussia and Sauber cannot compete in the sport anymore.

But at the end of the day, many pundits, teams and fans did not expect the return of in season testing back into the sport. And that has been managed to have been achieved by the teams and many teams have welcomed the return of in-season testing this season. But I do feel that the teams and the FIA need to use what they have achieved here and try to find a solution to this problem sooner rather than later. 

Further on in his interview, Wolff has stated that there are clear examples where the implementation of certain regulations can automatically lead to clear cost reductions.  Wolff extended his perspective further:-

‘Engineers are always going to find loopholes: if something is reduced on the left, possibilities will be found on the right. This is why the concept of a cost cap would be a difficult one to implement and police. Going back to previous changes to the sporting and technical regulations, restrictions on testing made sense.

‘Then there have also been initiatives such as curfews and the parc ferme rule. At the time, people were complaining, saying that the cars needed to be worked on overnight or they would be unsafe to race. But we’ve seen that everything has worked very well under these conditions. We have seen clear projects and processes through which costs can be reduced.’

As Wolff has said, loopholes will always be found within the sport and also within the teams currently on the grid in order to gain an advantage over their rivals that will benefit them and their performance on the track. I do agree with Wolff that the cost cap will be difficult to enforce and police but the FIA will have to make sure that they do their best to enforce the regulations on the teams if a solution can be found on May 1st.

Wolff makes make a valid point however. Currently within the sport, for example curfews on the teams are imposed during a Grand Prix weekend on the team and their personnel as they try to maximise their performance as best as they can. Over the past few years, the FIA have shown since introducing this regulation into the sport that it can be enforced and regulated and that the teams now accept this regulation week in and week out.

In my view, I do believe that the outcome of the meeting that is taking place on May 1st will be crucial to the future of Formula One and also of its smaller independent teams. Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsport and always will be in my eyes. It has always set the example that many other motorsport series aspire to achieve and it needs to do the same again here.

Many of the teams on the grid have achieved success in the sport and will continue and strive to do so. But to reach the level of excellence to achieve the success takes time, dedication, resources and most importantly investment that some of the smaller teams do not have.

It will only be a matter of time that if an acceptable solution cannot be achieved at the meeting on May 1st 2014 or even in later years within the sport, the spirit of the smaller, independent teams may not appear on an F1 grid. And Formula One needs to do as much as it possibly can to stop this from happening sooner rather than later.

But will the meeting on May 1st be as successful as it needs to be? We shall see.


F1 insiders doubt the bid of the Haas F1 team setting up in America


Yesterday, former Formula One drivers Johnny Herbert and John Watson stated to the media that Gene Haas should abandon plans to base his F1 team in the USA and instead relocate to the sport’s European heartland. Many pundits such as Herbert and Watson believe they are only trying to warn Haas as early as possible and trying to make him reconsider if he wants to make a serious impression in Formula One.

It would appear that Herbert and Watson believe that even though neither driver has never been in charge of another team, have seen previous attempts to operate from the other side of the Atlantic founder. The most recent American-based F1 hopeful which was USF1 that even failed to even reach the starting grid when supposed to join Virgin, Lotus and HRT in the 2010 line-up.

The NASCAR team owner was awarded an F1 licence by the FIA earlier this month, and has until June to make a definite decision on whether he intends to begin his quest in either 2015 or ’16. While Haas ponders that decision, he has remained intent on taking on the Europeans from his US base, despite admitting that the team will be working with Dallara and one of the existing engine manufacturers. Haas stated the following to the media:-

‘Ideally, going forward, the main office for the F1 [team] would be here in Kannapolis, with maybe a smaller office somewhere in either Germany or Italy for assembly and disassembly of cars.’

I do feel that if Haas does decide to organise his Formula One team in that way either if he decides to enter the sport next season or in 2016 could be problematic for him. Many of the teams currently on the grid within Formula One operate from Europe with everything that they need to compete within the sport under one roof and it would appear that this benefits the teams but also the sport in general as well.

In an interview with Sky Sports, Watson has expressed his reservations about the operation that Haas would run his Formula One team and believes that the distance involved with operating in North America and Europe could be problematical. Watson stated the following to Sky Sports:-

‘For me, it’s the wrong move. He’s going to be basing his car around the Dallara, …. so why base yourself in North America when everything has to be flown from Europe to North America to be assembled to be transported back for a European season? I would imagine you’re already starting on the back foot by basing your team in North Carolina.’

You can see Watson’s perspective. As if Haas does indeed decide to run his Formula One team mainly in North America and then seeking a small operation based in Europe, this could cause the team and Haas problems trying to run the team internally and externally.

For example, when the team is finally competing within Formula One and the team is looking towards developing its car during the season. Both sides of the Haas operation will be no doubt working very closely together to get the most out of the package they will provide to their drivers. But there could be problems with communication with both sides of the operation as they are trying to achieve this aim.

Alongside this, by Haas running in both North America and also in Europe, this will only escalate operational and running costs for them. Haas will have fund both sides of his operation equally and provide both sets with the personnel required to run both sides of his operation effectively. And this is at a time when the sport is meeting on May 1st to discuss plans to try and reintroduce the cost cap back at an acceptable level for all teams currently involved in the sport.

Further on in his interview with Sky Sports, Watson went on to claim that Haas would be better off buying up one of the existing teams thought to be open to offers that would provide him with everything he needed to get the programme underway.  Watson added the following in his interview with Sky Sports:-

‘[Buying a team] would be the obvious route to take. There are a number of teams in the marketplace right now that could be available but, so far, [Haas has] chosen this other direction. Maybe that might change before the end of the season….’

You cannot really dispute what Watson has stated here. If a current Formula One team did appear on the market looking to sell (I really hope this does not happen), then as Watson has said to the media, it would make a lot more sense for Haas to try his best to secure them and everything that comes with buying them.

Even though I would not like to see that happen, but if this situation occurred, I think Haas would be a bit naive if he did not decide to look further into that opportunity. As I have stated already, many Formula One teams and their suppliers are based in Europe. This would then place Haas and his team in the best place for them to not only operate within the sport but would also show many pundits and fans that they are taking competing in the sport seriously. But as Watson has stated, I do agree that at the moment we will have to see what happens as anything can change in Formula One.

With the decision over when to enter the fray uppermost in Haas’s mind, the team admits that the recent upheaval at Ferrari has caused a delay in the vital process of pinpointing a technical partner. Haas Formula GM Joe Custer confirmed to the importance of the decision that the team has to make when selecting a technical partner for their Formula One team. Cluster stated the following:-

‘We have to identify our technical partner. However long that takes is how long it takes. We have to get it right. You only get one shot at it. We have to give both [Ferrari and Mercedes] a solid evaluation, and that’s what we plan to do. They’re good people [and] we’ve had several meeting with them.

‘Like in any form of racing, they’re in the middle of their season, so you have to give people room to sort through issues. We have to be patient and not try to force something through too quickly when all parties haven’t had a chance to review all the opportunities involved and candidly, from our end, what all of our needs are. We’re still determining what all of our needs are and what the partners supply. What comes along with that, is what we’re trying to understand.’

As Cluster has stated to the media, it is important that Haas and his team looking at every available opportunity as they are selecting their technical partner for their F1 team. I believe that the attitude that Haas is showing towards selecting a technical partner is the correct way.

In my perspective, the method and approach that the Haas team is using when talking to suppliers and teams such as Ferrari is not only showing that they are looking at every possible option available to them. But it is also highlighting that they understand the importance of choosing the correct partner that will benefit both parties and also bring out the best in both parties involved if they choose to go into partnership with each other.

However, even though former Ferrari Team Principal Stefano Domenicali is now ‘on the market’ after he resigned from the team two weeks ago, Custer played down the possibility of adding an early link to the Scuderia just yet.  Cluster added the following:-

‘Never say never. I personally think a lot of Stefano Domenicali – there’s no doubt about that – but that’s not what we’re trying to accomplish right now and we haven’t had any discussions to further that. People like Stefano Domenicali are hard to find – people that are in the fight right now. Whether he’s a fit or not, we haven’t explored that yet.’

As Cluster says himself, there is no question that the Haas team while looking for the best personnel to join their Formula One team and they will be looking to see and find the best people to join them when they enter the sport. You can understand why the team at the moment are looking at people such as Domenicali who has the experience of running a team.

And if the Haas operation can convince people such as Domenicali to join them, this will only provide them with all the experience that they will need in order to establish themselves in the sport and also help them try and be as competitive as possible when they enter the sport in 2015 or 2016.

But I believe that Herbert and Watson have a valid point about the current plans that Haas has when he enters in the sport in 2015 or 2016. I do feel that if Haas sets up two operations in America and in Europe, this will only in my view escalate his running costs and also could cause both sides of his operation to misunderstand each other.

As I have stated already, many of the teams in the sport and their suppliers are based in Europe and are able even though there is distance between them, they are able to successfully operate within Formula One and compete at the high levels that they need to in order to be successful.

At this current time, Haas has not confirmed if his approach to running his Formula One team both in America and Europe will be taking place. It might be possible for him to successfully operate in Europe, it might not be. Currently, if I had to offer Haas some advice on the operational side of running his team, I would ask him to look at all the available opportunities just like he is while selecting a technical partner for the team and see what is out there.

All Haas can do at the moment is just look at all the options that are available to him and select the best option that he feels is best for his team and provides him with the confidence needed to run his team as best as he possibly can. But the question is; will his decision he makes benefit him and his team in the future? We shall see.

De Silvestro makes F1 Debut


Yesterday it was announced that Sauber’s development driver Simona De Silvestro completed her two day test at Fiorano with the team. It has been revealed that De Silvestro “drove very well” during the test and demonstrated her consistency within the test also.

During the two days at the Fiorano circuit, De Silvestro was in action at the Italian circuit, behind the wheel of a Sauber C31. Over the course of the test, De Silvestro managed to complete 112 laps on Saturday and then yesterday managed to complete 68 laps “without the slightest issue”.

De Silvestro’s performance out on track was welcomed by test engineer Paul Russell. When asked his thoughts about De Silvestro’s performance this weekend, Russell stated the following to the media:-

‘Over night she had the time to reflect on a lot of things and was able to adapt her driving accordingly. She learned the track well yesterday, so we had the opportunity to get some set-up work done. Simona drove very well, had a good pace and was consistent. Overall these were two very positive days.’

It is really nice to hear that De Silvestro has managed to have a successful test with the Sauber team at the weekend. It would seem that Russell is extremely happy with her performance over the weekend and this can as he says be very positive for both Sauber and also for her as they continue to work together over the course of the season.

As De Silvestro, she stated to the media after the test had finished that yesterday was “another good day” for her. In her interview with the media, De Silvestro added the following:-

‘Everything feels more familiar when things were new to me. We made some changes to the set-up, which gave me the opportunity to get a feeling for those changes and learn how the car reacts to them. I can say that I already feel confident in the car, which is very positive. I’m quite happy with what I was able to achieve over the two days.’

As De Silvestro stated to the media, it would appear that the test session this weekend has been a successful one for her. I have to say that it is really great to see that she has performed well this weekend. It would seem that she and also the Sauber team are really happy with the performance and progress that she has achieved during the test session.

And I believe that both parties should be pleased with the progress that they have made together this weekend. Not only has De Silvestro demonstrated her abilities and consistency with her performances this weekend, but this data will also help the Sauber team as they look to improve the C31 throughout the season ahead.

Further on in her interview with the media, De Silvestro had nothing but high praise for the Sauber team and showed her gratitude for allowing her the opportunity to test at Fiorano this weekend. De Silvestro added the following:-

‘A big thank you to the team who did a fabulous job explaining everything to me, and giving me the time to reflect on this. I had a lot of questions, and I got all the answers from the engineers, who took the time to show me the data and discuss it with me in all detail. I’m already looking forward to my next opportunity to test the C31.’

Earlier this year, it was announced by the Sauber team that De Silvestro would join the Sauber team as a development driver. As I am sure many pundits and fans (just like De Silvestro herself) would be wondering what this role would entail and what would be expected from her and also the team during this partnership.

However, it would appear that this weekend all of our questions have been answered with De Silvestro grabbing the opportunity Sauber have provided her with this season and has put in a strong performance that both she and the team are happy with. To me, it would appear that De Silvestro has all the skills and abilities that are needed for her to perform well within a Formula One car. She has showed that when she is provided with an opportunity to test the car, she can deliver the consistency and reliability that is required to perform well within the sport.

What De Silvestro has achieved this weekend in her first test as a development driver with Sauber is a fantastic achievement and this will no doubt provide her with a solid foundation to both her and Sauber to build on over the course of the season. I do believe that the mileage and data that she managed to achieve over the weekend will only push her on to build upon this when she tests for Sauber again in Valencia in June.

From De Silvestro’s performance at the test this weekend, you could state that this experience and her partnership with the Sauber could provide her with her best opportunity to try and secure a drive in Formula One in the near future. I do believe that she will continue to progress further and develop her talent as a racing driver as much as she possibly can with the Sauber team and that she will do everything that she possibly can to achieve her aim of competing within the pinnacle of motorsport.

As I have already stated, De Silvestro’s next run in the C31 is scheduled for 25th to 27th June at the Valencia track in Spain. I am very much looking forward to hearing how she will perform at the two day testing session at Valencia in June and seeing if she can build upon what she has managed to achieve at Fiorano last weekend.

Classic #jonesonF1: 1999 European Grand Prix


The European Grand Prix: Round 14 of 16 in the 1999 Formula One World Championship. Heading into the race, McLaren driver Mika Hakkinen lead the Drivers’ Championship with 60 points, ahead of Ferrari driver Eddie Irvine also on 60 points, with Jordan driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen in third on 50 points, McLaren driver David Coulthard in fourth on 48 points and Michael Schumacher was fifth on 32 points.

The previous round at Monza had seen Häkkinen make an unforced error while leading, Coulthard and Irvine finished only 5th and 6th and Frentzen took his second race win of the season. Also, the performance of Marc Gene in the Minardi in the Grand Prix is seen by many as the defining moment of the 1999 World Driver’s Championship battle for Irvine.

With Irvine unable to pass him for 6th place (and the extra point) this could have given the Irishman the championship that year. (Had Irvine scored this point, it is widely believed that Michael Schumacher would have allowed Irvine to take second place from him in the Japanese Grand Prix later in the year, giving Irvine an overall lead of one point in the final standings.)

In a wet Qualifying session, the star of the show was Frentzen. Although it was a stressful weekend for Frenzten, with car trouble keeping him in his pit, not finding the ideal set-up on his car and an in-team debate going on when going out in the session; he managed to keep himself in the fight for the title with an emphatic and well-planned pole position for the race on Sunday.

Couthard and Hakkinen qualified in second and third place ahead of Ralf Schumacher in his Williams. The McLaren pair and the Williams man will line up in reverse order of their losing the last four of many provisional poles behind Frenzten. Prost driver Olivier Panis edged out Benetton Giancarlo Fisichella for fifth, while Damon Hill pushed fellow ex-world champion Jacques Villeneuve to seventh place and onto the less popular side of Row 4 of the grid.

Eddie Irvine had to be satisfied with his Ferrari starting on the fifth row of the grid tomorrow in ninth place. Irvine had the worst luck of the four remaining title protagonists in today’s lottery called qualifying and knows it will be a tough race for him. Irvine starts alongside Prost’s Jarno Trulli, who tops off the ten best qualifiers.

On race day the track was dry but the start was delayed when Williams driver Alexander Zanardi and Minardi driver Marc Gene lined up out of sequence on the grid, necessitating another formation lap. As the start was aborted during the start lights’ sequence the top five qualifiers and another car actually jumped the start but were not penalised due to the aborting of the start.

When the race finally got under way, Frentzen led from Häkkinen, but further back there was trouble at the first corner. Hill’s Jordan suffered an electrical failure in the middle of the pack which caused Benetton driver Alexander Wurz to swerve into the path of Pedro Diniz and his Sauber and sent him into into a barrel roll.

Sauber Driver Pedro Diniz experiencing

Sauber Driver Pedro Diniz after contact with Wurz’s Bennetton when his rollbar failed

The safety car was deployed while Diniz was helped uninjured from his car; a fortunate end result as it was revealed that the Sauber’s rollbar had failed when it hit the ground.

The race settled down with the top six Frentzen, Häkkinen, Coulthard, Ralf Schumacher, Fisichella and Irvine. A few laps into the race rain began to fall, and Häkkinen pitted for wet tyres. The rest of the frontrunners stayed out on dry tyres, which proved to be the correct decision as the rain quickly blew over and the track dried.

Ralf Schumacher took advantage of the damp track to pass Coulthard, and Irvine passed Fisichella. However, things would quickly turn sour for Irvine as he had a disastrous pitstop. Irvine’s team mate Mika Salo (who was replacing for the injured Michael Schumacher who broke his leg at the British Grand Prix) had damaged his wing the previous lap leaving the Ferrari pit crew unprepared for Irvine.

Added to this, the team made a late decision to stay on dry tyres and the pit crew could only find three of them. Almost half a minute passed before the fourth was put on the car and Irvine was able to rejoin. Soon afterwards, Häkkinen pitted again to change back to dry tyres.

At the front, Frentzen and Coulthard continued on dry tyres until their scheduled pit stops which they made together (Schumacher had pitted several laps earlier). Frentzen rejoined ahead of Coulthard, with both comfortably ahead of Schumacher. At this point in the race both Irvine and Häkkinen were well out of the points, meaning that if the order stayed the same Frentzen, Irvine, and Häkkinen would have all been tied for the points lead with two races to go, with Coulthard six points behind them.

What followed was a series of heartbreaking retirements that I have never ever seen before. The first to fall was Frentzen, who ground to a halt at the first corner after his pit stop with the same electrical problem that had befallen his teammate. Coulthard inherited the lead and stayed out front until the rain came back with a vengeance.

Coulthard chose to stay out on dry tyres while most pitted for wets, which ultimately proved to be a costly mistake, as he slid off the road and out of the race on the 38th lap as the conditions worsened. Within a handful of laps two Championship contenders had seen their hopes of winning the title fall by the wayside.

Ralf Schumacher (still on dry tyres) then inherited the lead which he held until his pit stop six laps later. This allowed Fisichella (also on dries) to take the lead with Ralf in second, as the rain stopped. Meanwhile, Stewart GP driver Johnny Herbert had quietly moved up the order after changing to wet tyres just at the right time.

The heartbreak then reached new levels. On lap 49 Fisichella lost what would have been his first win when he spun out of the lead like Coulthard before him, giving the lead back to Ralf. But then he too lost the lead (and probable first win) when his right rear tyre punctured, allowing Herbert to take the lead which he would not lose.

Further back, the Minardis were taking full advantage of the unpredictable nature of the race with Luca Badoer in fourth and Marc Gené in seventh. But with just 13 laps to go, Badoer’s gearbox failed, denying the Ferrari test driver his first ever Formula 1 points and leaving him in tears. Gené was promoted to 6th, which became 5th when Jacques Villeneuve’s car failed, robbing the BAR team of their first-ever point.

Behind him, Irvine and Häkkinen had fought their way back into contention for points, with Irvine holding 6th ahead of Häkkinen. After cruising for most of the race, Häkkinen turned up the pressure, eventually forcing Irvine into a mistake and taking 6th place.

Poduim celebrations for Johnny Herbert, Jackie Stewart and Rubens Barrichello winning the first Grand Prix for Stewart Grand Prix

Poduim celebrations for Johnny Herbert, Jackie Stewart and Rubens Barrichello winning the first Grand Prix for Stewart Grand Prix

At the front Barrichello tried everything to pass Trulli for 2nd and make it a Stewart 1-2, but ultimately had to settle for 3rd. Meanwhile, Häkkinen caught and passed Gené for 5th to earn 2 invaluable points, but the Spaniard held onto 6th ahead of Irvine to give Minardi their first point for four seasons.

The 1999 European Grand Prix has to be one of the most exciting and yet heartbreaking races that I have seen. I have never seen a Grand Prix that has had so many drivers in the mix to win the race but yet at the same time retire from the Grand Prix. Herbert showed throughout the race with some determination and great driving to gain the lead of the race when the opportunity arose and he was rewarded with a cracking race win for his hard work.

It will also be remembered as the only race ever won by the Stewart Grand Prix team, as well as being the only time Stewart had two drivers finish on the podium. It was also the last Grand Prix victory for Johnny Herbert, and the last podium finish for the Prost Grand Prix team. Jackie Stewart in an interview after the race and even currently still considers this race greater than any of his own race wins, which shows just how much this means to him even today.

And as the 1999 World Championship leaded towards the next round in San Marino at the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia, Hakkinen was still leading the Driver’s Championship by 62 points ahead of Irvine two points behind with 60 points and Frentzen in third with 50 points.

You can watch the highlights of the 1999 European Grand Prix below by clicking on the YouTube link:- 

Lowdon: Formula One will fail if we do not control costs

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Australian Grand Prix - Race Day - Melbourne, Australia

In an interview with ESPN yesterday, Marussia’s Sporting Director Graeme Lowdon believes Formula One will be setting itself up for a fall if it tries to implement cost control through regulations alone.

A crisis meeting on May 1 between all 11 teams is being held after the F1 Strategy Group unanimously voted against introducing a cost cap into the sport for 2015. Marussia and the other teams such as Sauber who are not in the group are furious at the decision and feel the gap between the biggest and smallest teams will continue to grow.

The plan now is to achieve cost-cutting through sporting and technical regulations, but Lowdon cites McLaren’s approach this year as a reason why that approach alone will not work. Lowdon stated the following in his interview with ESPN:-

‘Over the years, through regulation changes, we’ve cut back on such things as testing and engines. Yet this season we had a public statement from McLaren saying they’re spending more money than they’ve ever done, which tells you you can’t do it through the regulations alone.

‘At the end of the day the best teams with the cleverest guys will still win, but Formula One should reward skill and not just financial strength. Right now there is far too much evidence to suggest it rewards financial strength whereby you make a mistake and you just buy your way out of the problem.

‘We have a set of regulations at the moment where you can buy performance – if you spend more you can go quicker. If there is a ceiling then it will prevent the grid from getting stretched too far.’

As for what Lowdon has stated, he makes a valid point. Even with the introduction of the new technical regulations this season, it would appear that teams such as McLaren still spending a significant amount of money in order to be as competitive as they can be is still a worrying sign.

As Lowdon quite rightly points out that if you are not competitive enough and you have enough money within the budget if your team, you can use the money in order to fix the problems that you may have. And this is what many teams such as McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari do currently alongside using the talented personnel who work for them.

At the moment, I believe something needs to be done in order to help out teams such as Marussia, Caterham and Sauber to keep running within the sport at an acceptable level to all the teams on the grid currently and try to be as competitive as they can on the resources they have at their disposal. But I will concur that this will be hard to achieve to the level that every team on the grid will accept.

Lowdon is a firm believer that Formula One should follow the example of other major sports such as the NFL, which has achieved a level playing field through a budget cap for all its teams. Lowdon extended his perspective further:-

‘We want to see Formula One grow, and there is an important lesson to be learned from sports that have demonstrated huge growth over the last five to 10 years. There are two elements that are a feature of those sports; one is an equitable distribution of finances within the sport, and the second is cost control of some description.

‘Those sports have delivered in terms of close, exciting competition and fans of Formula One want to see close, exciting racing. If Formula One cannot achieve that, when other sports can, it would be seen as some kind of failure. Why should this be a step beyond its ability? For me it makes no sense.’

In terms of what Lowdon has said above, I completely agree with what he has suggested. I think most pundits and fans are in agreement that they would like to see Formula One grow and expand into new markets and new countries. And Formula One needs to ensure that they continue trying to expand as much as they possibly can.

As for the financial aspects surrounding the sport, this is an area that is heavily guarded. But this is an area that I feel needs to be looking at in order to keep the smaller teams to compete and run in Formula One for as long as they possibly can. I think something needs to be done in order to try and contain costs in the sport that are acceptable to all teams in the sport and also allow them to compete at an acceptable level.

I will concur that trying to establish a cost cap within the sport is extremely difficult. As I have stated before, many teams will not want to provide information on their expenditure in order to stay and compete within Formula One to be public knowledge. And I do understand this desire to keep their expenditure close to their chests.

But at the end of the day, if the smaller teams cannot sustain the level of investment that is needed to even keep running in the sport currently, never mind trying to compete with each other, the bigger teams will lose their competition. It would be a shame for Formula One if the small, independent teams such as Marussia had to leave the sport due to not being able to compete due to the high level of investment needed currently to compete.

In my view, Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsport and always will be. Many of the teams on the grid have achieved success in the sport and will continue and strive to do so. But to reach the level of excellence to achieve the success takes time, dedication, resources and most importantly investment that some of the smaller teams do not have.

It will only be a matter of time that if an acceptable solution cannot be achieved at the meeting on May 1st 2014 or even in later years within the sport, the spirit of the smaller, independent teams may not appear on an F1 grid. And Formula One needs to do as much as it possibly can to stop this from happening sooner rather than later.

If all the teams and the FIA can agree at the meeting on the May 1st an acceptable and reasonable level of introducing a cost cap within the sport, then we could see the smaller teams such as Marussia, Sauber and Caterham survive in the sport a little bit longer. And we do need the smaller teams such as Marussia, Sauber and Caterham to stay within the sport for as long as they possibly can.

But will the meeting on May 1st be the first step to achieving this? We shall see.